Innovating the Foster Care System from the Grassroots

Laughter might not fix the foster care system, but it sure as heck can’t hurt. Anyone involved in the system can tell you that the challenges are many, the resources are few, and sometimes a good laugh is what we need to remind us of our humanity.

It is that shared humanity that gives us the courage and dedication needed to continue leaning in and finding solutions. The problems within the system are complicated and the interactions can be prickly. What we need is not just better systems and processes, but better conversations. More room to dream and hope.

Welcome to The Lab.

When we first began building the Foster Innovation Lab, we wanted to create something that would allow for those conversations. We want to embody the concepts of continuous improvement and customer engagement, but we also want to embody hope.

Within the Lab we are doing that by collecting data, clarifying problems, and testing potential solutions. We have been collecting survey data for three months in order to better understand what it is like to be a foster parent and pinpoint the reasons that many have closed their licenses.

Additionally, we are working to demonstrate the continuous improvement approach of making small changes that lead to big impact. We have chosen three specific problems that are directly tied to to the big problems commonly cited by foster parents: Disrespectful treatment, a feeling of voicelessness, and a lack of resources (read more about each one here). All of these are complex challenges, but by focusing on one small step at a time, we can make a difference.

Over the next two months we will also be running small experiments to see if we can have an impact on any of these problems. What happens to foster parent satisfaction if we provide clear information or simple feedback loops? Too often the conversations within foster care are centered around problems. At The Lab we want to focus on solutions. 

Are we in over our heads? Absolutely.

The Lab is currently run by four volunteer foster mamas. We are unfunded and doing this alongside our regular daily hustles. So yes, we are absolutely in over our heads. But that's ok, because the kids who are stuck in the system need adults who are willing to get in over their heads. For their sake, we are willing to try, to fail, and to try again. Our success will not be in perfection, but in our humanity and grit.

So do us a favor. Take a moment to laugh at a silly video, then take a deep breath and lean in, because we all have a lot of work to do. To join our ongoing conversation about how to make a difference, join our mailing list below.